BOzymandias, the nuns and the NHS

ozymandias_by_witchofwest-d3bmzex
It even looks a bit like him…

You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the victory of the Little Sisters of the Poor yesterday, although it helps.

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The media yesterday, in the UK and to an extent in the US, hugely downplayed Trump’s passage of an Obamacare replacement through Congress, even though there are still a few challenges ahead.  The Guardian, as one example, bafflingly are using the picture on the right as their main US headline, at the time of me writing this. We know you don’t like him guys, but was that really the main news event?

Two things happened: the Obamacare replacement already mentioned, the lack of which was being gleefully touted until about two days ago by people who should know better, as an emblem of Trump’s abject failures. The second is Trump’s executive order on religious freedom, which led to the press conference which is shown below. As Trump said, and it’s hard to claim he’s wrong: “I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution”. (Read this for more background).

There were parts of Obamacare that were good in theory, although the victims of the private insurance/Medicare/Medicaid situation that preceded it were primarily the middle classes rather than the poor and indigent. It was the middle classes who didn’t qualify for state aid who were hammered financially. However, Obamacare was always a rotten business model, and that’s all it was. It wasn’t healthcare – that’s provided by clinicians – and it wasn’t even insurance, as there was not enough ‘this might not happen’ element to it, which is the essence of house, car, health, dog insurance, whatever. If the new bill includes adequate coverage for pre-existing conditions, it will be better. Obamacare had had it anyway, even before yesterday’s news.

Perhaps Obama should have been more open about it, and gone for a US NHS, funded from taxation. I’m a big fan of the NHS. I have worked in it for more than 30 years, I don’t do private work, but it is desperately in need of reform. It has suffered terribly from technological advances, in a financial sense – and they’re far from being all good clinically – but also from mission creep, much of it led by the dreaded Public Health cabal and various politicians after an easy boost. It is far from Nye Bevan’s original vision. In a very perceptive Standpoint article on all this, John Torode wrote:

…however much the rest of the world allegedly envied our brave new health service, not one nation of any significance turned envy into action. Pretty well every advanced liberal democracy, from Germany to Israel, from France to the Scandinavian nations, chose fundamentally different models of health provision…..some problems are common to all health services. We live longer and need more, and more expensive, attention for chronic conditions in our old age. Medical science and technology have grown ever more complex and costly. But our rigid, unresponsive, centralised system, designed by state-socialists and run by bureaucrats, serves neither patients nor practitioners. It merely exacerbates the difficulties.

A working Glasgow GP, Margaret McCartney, wrote a great piece on the very real problem, both ethical and financial, of modern healthcare pursuing life at all costs:

Death is inevitable, but frequently seen as an inadequacy in medicine or treatment. Harpal Kumar, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said on the radio recently that his aim was to ensure that no one died of cancer any more. But we are still going to die, so what are we to die of? Is every death to be fought back with all of medicine’s might, and to be always considered its failure?

Well worth reading it all, but I digress. Back to BO and the nuns, where it just so happens that healthcare was the field on which he chose to fight. I wrote a blog 5 years ago  that predicted Obama’s demise on this. He picked on the wrong people, and he did it in a stupid and vindictive way.  He may have won his two elections for reasons that are many and varied – not particularly about good governance though – but his signature legislation is now dead. I had a Ford Fiesta that lasted longer than Obamacare. And he completely deserves the humiliation that it brings. Even his buddies in the Washington Post were aghast:

Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists….Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

Hence the title of this post. Take it away Percy Bysshe Shelley…

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

 and that video. “Incredible nuns…”

 

Obama and the groves of academe

You might reasonably categorise this as a trivial semantic moan (it is), but it’s been bugging me, so I will indulge myself. Here’s the problem: too often the adjectives academic and cerebral are deployed on people who lack much in the way of proof of these qualities. They have become a sort of shorthand for enigmatic and socially refined. The number one candidate, inevitably, is Obama, much of it centred around the nature of his emerging post-presidential career. I would imagine golf and money making will figure highly in reality, and good for him. It’s his gushing fanboys who misuse the terms.

Like most medics, I have had a fair bit of exposure to academia, and after the awakening of A-levels it hasn’t been too great a stretch in truth. One acquires degrees and diplomas in the course of things. Teaching isn’t tough, but being a really good teacher is. Higher degrees such as doctorates, and peer-reviewed quality research are a different matter. These things are very challenging and require a great deal of thinking, time, struggle, disappointment etc. I do alright with publications, but I have no MD or PhD and I admire anyone who has. I spent 6 years primarily employed by a medical school (though most of what I did was clinical, for the NHS). Genuine, productive, relevant academic activity is hard. You don’t wander into it, perform amazingly for a bit and wander off again.

So please don’t bandy such terms around unless you want to devalue them, as MENSA has achieved with IQ.  Here’s an example from Twitter. I was unnecessarily rude to @iainmartin1, whom I generally like and admire, as he kept putting superficial anti-Trump rants into the usually excellent Reaction (it wasn’t about defending Trump, it was the lack of any balance or attempt at understanding to which I was reacting).

obamacademic

This is not, I repeat, specifically about Trump v Obama. My point is that it is very easy to assume the mantle of the sophisticated intellectual, whose mind is occupied by lofty thought, often in comparison to the low-minded alternatives who lack this visionary capability. It has an exact comparison in the NHS: people who claim to be ‘strategic, not operational’. The latter is tough, and is demonstrated by tangible results, the former tends to be associated with promises of a golden future and not much more. The classic visionary who caused colossal amounts of trouble was of course Tony Blair.

A similar situation arose with the ludicrous idea that had Hillary won, Obama could himself replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, hence gushing articles like this. Again, it is all about how ‘impressive’ ‘mature’ and ‘curious’ he is. Not about cases fought, heard, won, papers published, previous experience at the highest levels of the law – basically just what a dude he is. This sort of crap patronises everyone, including Obama.

Interestingly, if you take Iain’s point about Obama’s early career and mode of thinking (the latter phrase is a bit of a copout too), it’s not as glittering as you might have been lead to believe. Did he actually write his books personally? Do people usually get to the end of them? Are they any good? Neither is ‘academic’ as such.

If you do a Google Scholar search, there’s plenty of boilerplate almost certainly written by speechwriters and team members rather than BO himself. There is not really much else. Despite the hype around it, this piece in JAMA – and almost certainly not written by BO  – is not an academic paper at all. This, from 1990, is an adequate local magazine article, nothing more. Here is a fascinating if slightly bitchy analysis, by Jack Cashill, of the great man’s writing style and his output, it’s worth reading. Following on from that is a typically witty piece from a truly great prose writer, Bob Tyrrell, further deconstructing the whole Obama intellectual/reader schtick.

If you were wondering about his speeches, given his intermittently justified reputation as an orator (try this), well…they don’t read quite as well as they did in his Golden Era. I quote from Matthew Walther’s book review, starting with a strikingly Blairesque paragraph that also calls to mind a tedious NHS management workshop:

(we) are forever being asked with a steady, cloying, increasingly oppressive optimism to “rise to this moment,” to “have passion” and “a strategy,” to aspire to “a sense of purpose,” to “feel” things like “urgency” and “hopefulness,” to participate in “a conversation worth having,” to “summon a new spirit,” to remind ourselves that “change happens”—as if believing things or wanting to do them, considered in the abstract and putting aside the question of what exactly those things are, were a virtue

and

Its editors, E.J. Dionne and Joy-Ann Reid, set up our expectations very early—on the book’s first full page, in fact—when, after having compared him to Lincoln and FDR, they quote Obama responding to a compliment from Harry Reid, who had called one of his speeches “phenomenal.”

“I have a gift, Harry,” Obama replied.

Maybe, but I don’t think it’s particularly to do with speeches, writing and thinking.

Obama Speaks To Press After His Daily Economic Briefing
Spontaneous oratory in action

Obama and the Book of Judges

When the famed English wit (I suppose) James Delingpole wrote his meisterwerkWelcome to Obamaland: I’ve Seen Your Future, and it Doesn’t Work, he couldn’t have quite realised how accurate he would be in his lucid comparison of Blair and Obama. Set aside the vanity, the glib speechifying,  the certainty in one’s own views irrespective of the evidence, the spendthrift economy and the foreign policy disasters. The extraordinary feature of both men is their remarkable electoral popularity, and the almost criminal lack of lasting benefit accrued to the voters who put them up there. 

The upshot of all this is both men have almost no substantial positive legacy. I know a lot has been claimed, but I mean real achievements for world peace, national infrastructure, the economy, employment – all that tiresome stuff that actually matters.

I lost my residual affection or respect for Obama back in 2012, when his vindictive nun bullying began on the back of the now doomed Obamacare requirements. A year later when he was doubling down on the Catholics. I wrote then .... Obama may stagger through the next three years, working on his scorched earth tactics . That three years will almost certainly be a mess on numerous levels. Whatever the polls say, I very much doubt that Hillary Clinton will be the next president. I also quoted Peggy Noonan on his aggressive stance to the Church: There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him. Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.

Looks like this last 6 weeks’ results have been a few years in the making. Some of it recalls Harold Macmillan’s (or was it Baldwin?) quotation: “There are three bodies no sensible man directly challenges: the Roman Catholic Church, the Brigade of Guards and the National Union of Mineworkers”.

Anyway, the long and short of all this is to ask the question: what is his true legacy? To which I would identify three areas. The first black president, agreed. Secondly, in policy terms the facts are very clear. Try Victor Davis Hanson’s detailed and sharp analysis, judged by Barack’s own criteria. Pretty painful.

The third category is a more existential one. Just as Tony Blair roams the world seeking a role and a little respect, like the Wandering Jew observed through the prism of the Love Actually zeitgeist, so might Obama end up just a little bit lost. This is the theme of a quite magnificent bit of writing by a Philadelphia lawyer – not a professional journalist – Martin Karo over at Powerline:

He will drive (well, be driven) a few scant miles to a house in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, where he can watch at close range as his legacy is revealed not to be one. From his front-row seat, he will watch his eponymous healthcare plan be gutted, watch his foreign policy be repudiated, watch his bureaucratic overreaches be reeled in (please God!), watch conservative judges take the bench, watch his immigration policy melt, watch the military cheer his successor as they never cheered him, watch infrastructure funds build highways and bridges (that will not be named after him) instead of disappearing into the pockets of government union members, watch the American energy revival kick into high gear.

As he watches all this, one wonders whether Obama will appreciate the curious posture he has imposed on the Democratic Party. It is too much to expect Obama to blame himself for the decline in the Party’s presence, at every level of government; but unless he is delusional, he must at least see it.

But there’s more:

The other curious thing about Obama’s remaining on the scene is that he has no visible friends on it, despite his dominance of his party. He has many toadies. He has his entourage. He even has many sincere admirers. But friends? Name three. Name one….

….Obama is staying in Washington for two reasons: because he doesn’t truly have friends elsewhere, or any other place he considers home; and because if he doesn’t stay in DC he descends into obscurity. The latter is a struggle he is likely to lose anyway; if ever there were a personality suited to dominate the stage and put his predecessor in the shade, it is Trump.

I have no idea who Obama’s real buddies are (if any), but it’s a compelling picture that Karo paints. He draws two comparisons (not Blair this time): Richard Nixon and Milton’s Samson Agonistes. You probably do have to be a little remote, a little different, to achieve the highest office, and I have no issue with that, but to ultimately achieve so little of substance is tragic.

Samson of course brought the roof of the mighty temple building down with his residual strength, killing himself and the elite of the Philistine tribe by whom he’d been captured.

Not a bad parallel.

samson1
The Democratic Party at the end of 2016

Poetry corner: Barack Obama, an appreciation

So farewell then Barack Obama

You were the first black president, which counts for a lot, but

You cynically divided the country

Demonised folk and bullied nuns

And wrecked your own party,

Whilst playing golf, hugely enjoying yourself

And talking a load of rubbish

You were smart to know when the game was up, but

We all know it should have been a lot better

ap_barack_obama_bill_clinton_golf_3_jt_150815_4x3_992
It was good while it lasted, lads

American Caesar, sort of

What Trump managed was, unquestionably, the greatest upset in American political history, and arguably, the greatest electoral upset in the history of the modern world.

…thus wrote Scott McKay in today’s American Spectator. He goes on to add:

Hillary Clinton lost this race more than Trump won it. Which is not a disparagement of Trump’s upset; if nothing else, his late surge came from an excellent display of political discipline in largely refraining from any controversial words or deeds once Clinton’s legal troubles began multiplying 10 days out from Election Day — that restraint allowed her to lose the race and made him President of the United States.

Because what happened on Election Night was that the national gag reflex manifested itself. And the Democrats’ attempts at forcing down a charmless Alinskyite grifter under multiple FBI investigations ran afoul of that reflex. She found herself the victim of a massive laryngeal spasm on the part of the electorate.

Well, maybe Scott. Certainly the ‘anyone-but-Hillary’ force was strong, but….was it really  that great an upset, really so unpredictable? To quote black talk show host Larry Elder: I Hate to Say I Told You So – Actually, I Really Don’t Mind. Back in March I wrote this blog post, before Trump even got the nomination. I should add that then and now I don’t see Trump as a good or great man, though he now has a huge chance to show such qualities, but rather, I thought I was being realistic. All this amazement from pollsters and the media getting it wrong really does show how little they live in the real world. The one British hack who completely gets this is a lefty – the estimable John Harris of the Guardian.

I revisited it 5 months later, by which point Trump had the nomination, but very little true support from within the Republican party. At that time I quoted a member of my own family: I’m stunned to think that anyone can consider a racist dishonest misogynistic hateful, despicable human as Trump as suitable over any other candidate. I agree Hillary leaves a lot to be desired but for sheer evil Trump outstrips her every step of the way.

You would think that after Brexit people might start to question the received wisdom of the media/Establishment, if only to save a little face. Impeccably liberal Maureen Dowd of the humiliated New York Times gives an interesting and fair minded take of her own family’s split on the topic here.

Anyway, in the spirit of closing the loop (as those of us involved in clinical audit like to say), here are the specific predictions in the 8 month old blog revisited:

  1. Trump will be the Republican candidate, without a brokered convention

Yup, that was actually very straightforward

2. The party will rally round him with a few unimportant exceptions

A grudging pass, he eventually got the basically sound Paul Ryan onside. Party chief Reince Priebus got on the Trump bus fairly early – a wise move

3.  He will rapidly and overtly assemble a team of big hitters — few people will turn him down

Well, Pence was an inspired VP choice for folk who found Trump a bit too wild. Giuliani was solid. Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway were brilliant choices for the big run in. Trump is either very lucky or a good judge of people.

4. He will win the election

Ahem!

5. That will primarily be because he’ll gain votes from former Democrats who can’t stand Hillary and actually like what Trump says, but they won’t tell pollsters that

Tick! Look at the electoral map – even California gets in on the change. As for the neglected rustbelt, disdained by Obama and his toadies…

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*

6. A negligible number of Republican voters will defect, or abstain

Tick! Well the turnout was around 56%, and the lowish figure is thought to be mainly disaffected Democrats (according to Vox)

7.  He will gain more of the black and Hispanic  votes than anyone is predicting at the moment (read the original post for some interesting detail on this)

Tick! The numbers aren’t huge, but he didn’t need a huge swing. It was a genuine shift to Trump. Ask NBC:

Most surprisingly, official exit polls show Trump won 29 percent of the Latino vote; Romney had won 27 percent in 2012…As with Latinos, black men voted for Trump in higher numbers than their female counterparts, at 13 percent compared to 4 percent of black women.

8. He will be far more cautious and pragmatic in office than current rhetoric suggests – he will listen to advisers

Well he certainly listened during the campaign, especially latterly – the relaxed, discursive confident Trump in the late rallies

9. Sadly,there will not be a mass exodus of pathetic celebrities from the US – the Paul O’Grady rule will apply

I’m still hoping on this, but there’s at least 23 to choose from, albeit I’ve not heard of lots of them, so ‘celebrity’ might be pushing it. It should be easy enough to spot if Barbra Steisand has actually upped sticks. Apparently Canada don’t want most of them

10. Economically he will avoid the threatened trade war, but send out a few protectionist messages

He’s a pragmatic businessman who will have to do something to support the US worker. It might be bumpy, but US power – and the ubiquitous dollar – is great enough for him to manage it. The UK will do well with Trump.

11. Foreign policy will be left to a smart Secretary of State and the military

Well, war is sometimes necessary, and I take the view that difficult though it may be, the West will have to play a significant part in destroying ISIS. Heraclitus would concur, I think. Trump may not be squeaky clean on Iraq – like many people who suspected it was a bad idea, he vacillated a bit. There is no evidence at all that he would be a gung-ho neocon or Hillary style Libyan interventionist. As for this weird Dem obsession with hating Putin/Russia above everyone else, I know he’s a bad guy, but he is against some of the worst people. Try Rod Liddle on this.

12. I’ve no idea what he’ll do in reality re immigration

Though Ann Coulter has

I think I did alright with the predictions so far. Even if it goes a bit pear-shaped (but nowhere near as bad as Barack has managed), at least we have the late John von Kannon‘s wise advice:

“If you can’t have good government, at least have entertaining government.”

donald-trump-as-julius-caesar
Hmm, maybe not after all

Great Landscapes: Karl Friedrich Lessing

The Knife is a sucker for German romantic art. Caspar David Friedrich, Schinkel, Moritz von Schwind, Carl Spitzweg etc, the shrine of this style is probably the Berlin Alte Nationalgallerie, which is housed in a beautiful building, and is perfectly laid out. Worth a visit.

For some reason, Karl Friedrich Lessing had passed me by. Some of this genre is undoubtedly a bit cheesy, and veers off into symbolism, and in the opposite direction, sentimentality. However, Lessing had the technical gifts, and a finely tuned sensibility towards that prereformation Europe of castles and religion that my generation used to see in  children’s storybooks. This sort of taste is something of a nostalgia trip, therefore, but beyond that there is a mystical element of a ‘golden era’ hanging over his works, at least in my brain. Here are three gems, the last of which is the most famous, and perhaps not, strictly speaking, a landscape. In an era when the Crusades are routinely misreported by everyone from Barack Obama down, it’s nice to see such a beautiful evocation of what, perhaps, they were really like.

 Romantische Landschaft mit Klosteranlage , 1834. Came up for auction not long ago
Romantische Landschaft mit Klosteranlage , 1834. Came up for auction in 2011, went for $88,614. A bargain.
Klosterhof im Schnee, 1828. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud
Klosterhof im Schnee, 1828. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud

 

The return of the Crusader, 1835. Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn
Heimkehrender Kreuzritter, 1835. Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn

 

ISIS/IS/ISIL: revenge of the nerds

This one's a Saudi, but you get the picture
This one’s a Saudi, but you get the picture

If there are really 500 IS jihadis of British origin roaming around Iraq being supertough, then I think I’ve met some of the prototypes.

More than three years ago I did a post highlighting the problems women can face in the Islamic world ( nothing too original, beyond the still incredible fact that Jack Straw was correct for once in his political career). It included the lines:

The Muslim lads, mostly Pakistani, but not exclusively so, all tended to hang around together. Very few had girlfriends, and conversation – without the excuse of booze – would often revolve around women. The discussions would have rapidly turned Polly Toynbee and Germaine Greer to violence.

Women were routinely referred to as ‘slags’ and the like, with their main function being sexual.  Insight into female psychology was absent, and was often along the lines of  “she’s gagging for it” etc etc. The men very rarely had friendly chat with women, it just didn’t happen. When I asked a muslim friend why they all went on like this, he candidly explained that they were all expecting arranged marriages, dating was frowned upon, and because they were medics, they knew that they’d be offered physically attractive intelligent wives. They couldn’t be bothered getting to know the women as friends, and  it was all “a bit of fun”.

Porn was popular though. One of The Knife’s acquaintances worked in Quetta, Pakistan in a Red Cross hospital in the nineties. He routinely treated badly injured Taliban from Afghanistan civil conflicts. Many of them, young lads, who’d been closing down girls schools etc the week before, would head into the bazaar as soon as they could,  to catch up on hardcore porn. Once they had fully recovered, off they went on their religious mission.

That was true then, and I suspect it’s true now, though shaking off the shackles of a culture** which intentionally separates men and women is one of the ways forward in our multicultural society.

Similarly, I had a Libyan colleague who made disastrous attempts, in his mid thirties, to talk to women staff in a romantic way. One week he went off to Libya and secretly got married. It lasted a week (divorce being relatively easy in that society), and the bride’s family declared their intention to kill him for the dishonour. When he reappeared he became a wannabe jihadi, assuring me of Bin Laden’s greatness, and in a typically confused way, conceded that the victims of 9/11 were innocent, but still deserved to die “because they were Americans”. As is usually the case, he wanted to stay here, Libya wasn’t for him.

The hopelessly crap Glasgow Airport medical bombers were cut from the same cloth. So is this guy (worth reading as it pretty much backs up the above).

So, when you’ve been brought up in this stifling misogynistic way, when you’re a bit hormonal, when the groomers at the mosque begin to turn their attention to you, a possibly one way trip to Syria and Iraq is your ticket to being a man.

Holding a severed head is not too difficult – I’ve done it a few times myself – but sawing it off a struggling victim requires a previously unplumbed depth of amorality and a deliberate suppression of humanity that is what makes these idiots dangerous. They have little physical prowess, their martial feats are based on the fact that they have thus far encountered almost no resistance, and normal people in any society find the thought of being beheaded, stoned and crucified terrifying.

All this will change if the confused wimpiness of Obama and Dave begins to coalesce into something more than ASBO’s, as it will. No doubt there is a huge amount of intelligence, planning and so on going on right now, but it frequently seems that certain journalists are way ahead of politicians in this sphere. I quoted in full Brendan O’Neill’s magnificent overview  of the problem of Islamic terrorism last year, and that was before the rise of the current ISIS lot. O’Neill, and his colleague at Spiked, Frank Furedi, continue to provide a lot of sensible analysis on these issues.

In the meantime, no-one should think of these British jihadis as tough, fearless or principled.

They are the Islamic Inbetweeners gone wrong.

 

**One of the finest and funniest journalists ever, Mark Steyn, offers this complementary take

 

Obama’s SOTU ~ worse than a porn convention

It’s nice to read top class invective. It’s not always easy to punch out a truly snarling message with concision and a sense of humour. Here is Kevin D Williamson of NRO, a great writer describing a not-so-great event, Barack’s latest State of the Union address. Read the whole article:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

I like that last line.

Where's Barack?
Where’s Barack?

Obama’s own death spiral

Mark Steyn is very funny. He’s also very smart. He can write brilliantly.

So, if you’d like  a lucid laugh-out-loud explanation of the unfolding mess that is Obamacare, look no further than National Review Online, here.

And below is  a taste. The Knife first predicted the demise of Obama’s reputation before he got re-elected, when he picked a fight with the Catholic church, related to Obamacare. The nemesis consequent to his hubris (ahem) is now before us:

…as historian Michael Beschloss pronounced the day after his election, he’s “probably the smartest guy ever to become president.” Naturally, Obama shares this assessment. As he assured us five years ago, “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Well, apart from his signature health-care policy. That’s a mystery to him. “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working,” he told us. The buck stops with something called “the executive branch,” which is apparently nothing to do with him. As evidence that he was entirely out of the loop, he offered this:

Had I been I informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, “Boy, this is going to be great.” You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, “This is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,” a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work. 

Ooooo-kay. So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.

H/T The Canadian Sentinel
H/T The Canadian Sentinel

Obama v The Popes: thinking in centuries

OK, he’s biased. I’m biased, but Charles Krauthammer has a point:

From king of the world to dead in the water in six months. 

The Knife has in the past compared one big O with another: Obama and Ozymandias. Hardly original, I know, but when you get the kind of implosion that Krauthammer eloquently describes as a direct outcome of Obama’s policies and his intransigence, then the demob happy ennui that you would normally see in the eighth year of a two-term presidency seems to have been dramatically brought forward. What an embarrassment for America.

In another cliche, Obama is guilty of hubris. Quite how guilty is evident when you examine Aristotle’s definition of it:

Aristotle defined hubris as shaming the victim, not because of anything that happened to you or might happen to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries—that is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.

Of course, Nemesis must follow, but in what form? Three years provides plenty of opportunities.  My own modest contribution to the Obama decline timeline was actually before he got re-elected, but he’d decided to pick a fight with the Catholic Church. A year and a half later, his monumental arrogance, precipitating the “shutdown”, has led to his administration  making it illegal for military chaplains to say mass for their soldiers. 

How did it come to this? What kind of government has he created?

In fact, a non-compliant one. That particular decision, a total PR disaster, has now been the subject of a vote in the House of Representatives. Did the Democrats stand by their man? The vote went 400-1 against the ruling. The one being a Democrat called William Enyart, who must be after promotion.O’s troops are clearly becoming a little uneasy.

You might think this is all a sideshow, the chaplaincy ruling merely correcting an unintended consequence of a serious political decision. However, is this really what the US presidency is about? These are hardly easy times, there are plenty of other big issues that need attention.

The upshot is that Obama may stagger through the next three years, working on his scorched earth tactics  (see Gordon Brown). That three years will almost certainly be a mess on numerous levels. Whatever the polls say, I very much doubt that Hillary Clinton will be the next president.  Perhaps hedging his bets, Barack has recently been praising the new pope. Francis has yet to reciprocate.

Peggy Noonan’s take on Obama’s initial shot against the Church explained why he behaves like this:

There was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him. Enjoy it while you can. You have awakened a sleeping giant.

So Obama, swaggering, high handed, de haut en bas, will be gone. And the Church will still be here.

That's the door over there, Mr President
That’s the door over there, Mr President